Biological Products frequently asked questions
How do I know if I need an Import Permit?
Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). This database lists the Biosecurity conditions under which various commodities may be imported into Australia. If an Import Permit is required, or if any other specific conditions apply, BICON will specify this. The information available on BICON is the same information that the Department’s border staff use when inspecting and clearing goods arriving into the country. It is therefore essential that importers refer to this database regularly to keep up to date with any changes to import conditions.
What do I do with my Import Permit when I get it?
When you receive your Import Permit, please read it carefully to ensure you understand all the conditions. The Import Permit will dictate conditions under which the product may enter Australia. It is important that the importer reads these conditions before importing. To arrange clearance of imported goods, the Import Permit (or a means of identifying such as the Import Permit number) and all associated documentation must be submitted to the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) or to Self Assessed Clearance (SAC) for goods under $1000.
Can you give my Import Permit application priority?
The Biological Imports Program receives hundreds of import permit applications each day . The program will only prioritise applications if there is a medical emergency or where the importer has a valid Import Permit on which the Biological Imports Program has made an error. The department treats each application equally and processes applications in the order that they are received.
The department is not releasing my goods. Why not?
If the department has not released your goods, it could be for several reasons. It may be that an Import Permit and/or other documentation is required, or the product may be required to undergo post-entry treatment or inspection. If in doubt, check the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) for current import conditions. Even if an Import Permit is not required, there may still be conditions required for importation.
If you are still not sure why your goods are being held, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia). When you do so, please have available a reference number for your consignment (e.g. Quarantine Entry number or seizure notice). If your goods are handled by a freight clearance agent or air courier (e.g. FedEx, TNT, UPS, etc.), you should ask them to provide you with the biosecurity direction, or specific BICON condition that applies to your goods. Please note that the department will authorise the release of your goods as soon as acceptable documentation is provided and/or goods are cleared by inspection.
Does my product need to be kept at an Approved Arrangement site (AA)?
AA sites are registered for the storage, use or further processing of high-risk products. Examples of biological products that may require containment at an AA site include: highly pathogenic/exotic microorganisms; samples for laboratory analysis (food, water, soil, etc); and agricultural products requiring further processing. Your Import Permit will specify if your product needs to be held at an AA, and the class of the AA required.Further information about AAs can be found here Approved arrangements.
How do I transfer material between AA sites?
Goods that must be contained at an AA site may not be moved to another AA unless prior written approval is obtained from the department. For transfer of biological products between AA sites, an Application for transfer of biosecurity material must be submitted to the Biological Imports Program.
Can someone else take my Import Permit to clear the product?
An Import Permit is the financial and legal responsibility of the importer. It cannot be borrowed, hired, lent, or given to another party. The documentation on imported goods (importer details, exporter details) must correspond exactly to those listed on the permit. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).
What does it cost to have my goods inspected/tested?
There are a number of different types of inspection, testing and treatments that the department uses to mitigate potential biosecurity risks. A general guide to the costs involved is available from the fees and charges section of the website. If you are still having difficulty working out the costs, email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).
Where and how do I get government certification?
Government Veterinary Certification or Government Health Certification is issued by the government of the exporting country. In order to obtain this certification, you will need to contact the relevant government authority in that country. The local embassy or consulate of your exporting country will be able to provide you with further details of their export authorities.
Please note, the country of export is the country from which goods are sent to another country.
What if I'm just bringing samples or small quantities for my company/buyers to try? Do I still need a permit for these?
Unless you are able to satisfy the 'personal use' import requirements as specified on the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON), commercial samples are treated in the same manner as commercial quantities. This means that they will be subject to the 'commercial' conditions as specified on BICON. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).
Import Permit Application Process
I've got the application form but I don't know how to fill it out! Can you help?
Please refer to the Checklist for importing biological materials on how to fill in your permit application form.
Where do I send my application?
The Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) will usually specify where your permit application can be lodged. If in doubt, email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).
How long does it take to receive my Import Permit after submitting an application?
Most import permits will be issued within 20 working days of completed applications being received and paid for in full.
Applications may take longer if:
- they require complex technical assessment
- incomplete or incorrect information is provided by the applicant
- additional information is required to undertake the assessment (applicants will be notified of this by the assessing officers. You do not need to take any further action unless advised)
- it is a novel good (product) or has been prepared in a novel manner
You will be notified of the outcome of the assessment once complete.
How much does it cost for an Import Permit?
There are two components that make up the permit cost: an application/administrative fee, and an assessment fee. The administrative fee is standard across all commodities. The assessment fee covers the costs associated with the assessment of individual commodities, and varies according to the type and number of products on the application form.
When do I need to pay for my Import Permit?
Payment should accompany your application form. Your application will not be processed until full payment has been received.
How can I pay for my Import Permit?
You can pay for your permit application in BICON when you submit the application.
How do I amend a current Import Permit to add extra commodities or change importer/exporter details?
To make a change to a finalised import permit you will need to log into your BICON account and submit a permit variation request.
Please use the help card for “How do I vary my Permit”.
If you have any further questions please contact the department using the ‘Contact Us’ tab in BICON, sending an email to imports or by calling 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).
My permit will expire soon (or has expired) - How do I apply for a replacement import permit?
Prior to issuing a new Import Permit, the Biological Imports Program must undertake a new assessment of the biosecurity risks associated with the products. This means that a new application form must be submitted in BICON. The new application should provide reference to the old Import Permit number.
All relevant product information (ingredients, manufacturing processes, etc.) must accompany the application.
Please note, the department recommend that permit applications are submitted three months before an existing permit expires to ensure that the new Import Permit is ready before the old one expires.
Can I have an Import Permit with more than one exporter?
An Import Permit can often be issued listing more than one exporter, however this is dependent on the type of commodity. When submitting your permit application please request ‘various exporters’ or list them on a separate attachment.
If my application is rejected, can I get my money back?
Under the existing fee schedule, Import Permit applications have two associated charges: an application (or administrative) fee and an assessment fee. The administrative fee covers the costs associated with logging the application into a database, ensuring correct payment is received etc. The assessment fee covers the costs associated with the assessment. The following rules apply to refunds that can be issued by the Biological Imports Program:
- If an application is received, logged into our database and payment processed (but has not yet been assessed), only the assessment fee can be refunded. The application fee will not be refunded.
- If the application has been assessed (more information requested, application rejected etc), no money will be refunded.
Do I have to answer the genetically manipulated material question? How?
This question only needs to be addressed if the product is for in vivo or environmental end use. If the product is genetically manipulated, the manufacturer or supplier will be able to provide you with the necessary details.
Who do I contact regarding Australian food safety requirements?
Importers and brokers should be aware that all imported food must comply with the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992, as well as Australia's biosecurity laws (Biosecurity Act 2015). The applicable standards for food under the Imported Food Control Act 1992 are those set down in the Australian Food Standards Code (FSC), and these same standards apply to foods manufactured in Australia. The FSC is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and they publish the code on their website. It is the importer's responsibility to ensure that all imported food complies with the Food Standards Code
Who is the Competent Authority for seafood export certification?
The Competent Authorities for seafood export certification for various countries are listed on several ICON cases. For example refer to the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) for the specific details of your exporting country.
Where can I find information regarding emigrating/moving to Australia?
If you are moving to Australia and importing many different types of goods, it is important that you understand all relevant import requirements. A professional clearance agent or broker may be able to provide assistance for large amounts of goods. Also refer to BICON for details on specific products. Further information is also available from our webpage: Emigrating/Moving to Australia.
I think the inspection is wrong—what can I do?
If you disagree with the results of an inspection of your goods, you will first need to email the Client Contact Group (CCG) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia). You may be able to arrange further inspection, or treatment of your goods to address biosecurity concerns. If you are unable to reach an agreement, your local office can contact the Biological Imports Program to discuss alternative arrangements.The Biological Imports Program will only consider exceptional circumstances, and will not over-rule the decision of the Inspection Officer.
Do you have another question about importing biological products? For assistance please email the Imports Services Team (IST) or call 1800 900 090 (+ 61 3 8318 6700 outside Australia).